Cyclocross is a community, a competitive one to be certain, but a community none-the-less. Being a community, it takes on some of the aspects of family as well. Sibling rivalry and support are as likely to show up on the course as they are on the sidelines. Cheers erupt from the spectators in support of racing brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, and friends. It is not unusual to see parents with toddlers on their shoulders and kids running around their knees or being pushed in strollers, with race numbers pinned on to their footie pj's.
In cyclocross it seems that half of the spectacle... is provided by the spectators.
The speakers announce "Can we have a bell check please?" and the entire crowd rings their bells. Usually the bells are reserved for cheering on the competitors, but sometimes even the bell ringing becomes a competition... Perhaps the Cyclo-ringing Nationals? Slowly the common cow bell evolves into bigger, louder cow bell, which then evolves into cans and drums. Finally wouldn't you know, it even evolves into a lime green Bianchi frame being used as a fire triangle, a caucaphony aimed to spur the riders' efforts.
And, oh yes, did we mention the Cyclo-Dress up? Let's see, there's the Guitar Lady, complete with coconut bra, grass skirt and lei, strumming up interest and smiles... Wonder Woman was present with her shinny red boots, bustier and cape. The slightly deflated Sumo Girls and Mr. Pacman were in attendance to encourage and compete. For the younger crowd there were these weird green characters (oddly reminiscent of a current TV commercial about mucus) who ran around supplying their brand of entertainment. All of the color and the pagentry are aimed at cheering on a favorite rider, who, more often then not may be a family member or a college buddy.
Man's best friend shows up in every size from purse dog to team jersey clad hundred plus pound pooch. Four-legged family friends cheered just as loudly as the two-legged variety. Goldens, Bulldogs, and maybe even a Shitzu or two, our furry friends were everywhere sporting the team colors or sharing a few fries from the burger tent.
As we said, this is a family sport. Betsy from Pittsfield Mass. has been dragging around the country for eight years "after my fiance Jeff Kellog, who started out with a lot of mountain biking and road biking. He picked up Cross in the last three or four years."
Finally, cyclocross really brings out the best in folks, the extra effort on the course, and those deep feelings of protection off. Take the case of Stephanie, a collegiate crosser who broke her ankle two weeks ago in a corner leading to a run-up at the W. E. Stedman Cross. This weekend she hobbled around the entire course on crutches. Had it not been for her injury, she would have been rounding the course as a competitor. Proving that chivalry is not dead, she was accompanied and protected by Jeff Lukach and his magic guitar Anna. Anna has the power to heal and protect, and oh yeah, the portable amp on Jeff's hip also allowed Anna to provide some decent cheering riffs!
Cyclocross is about agility and speed, riding fast, clearing the barriers and surmounting the run-ups. But, sometimes, amidst the hurtling cyclists, there is another athletic activity, Cyclo Course-crossing. The course of competition is folded upon itself so many times that it begins to resemble a Russian Nesting Doll. So to get from one side of the course to another, spectators have to cross the track. Often it can be as much fun to watch this activity as the race.
Last but not least there is the race itself. This is a perfect spectator sport. Have fun with it as we may, one would be genuinely hard pressed to find another bicycling, or for that matter any sport venue so easily accessible to the viewer. It is actually possible to follow a racer around much of the circuit from one spot, or with a little walking to access the entire circuit. Spectators stand within inches of speeding panting and sweating competitors, and almost any spot around the course is literally a ringside seat.
For a day of genuine healthy outdoor family fun, next time, find a cross race.